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Full text of "A New Year's sermon: : delivered in the Congregational Church, Jewett City, Conn., January 13, 1856"

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January 13, 1856. 



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We have been accustomed to devote a half hour, on the 
first Sabbath of the year to retrospection, and to gather from 
the past lessons of wisdom for the future. That duty if 
performed at all this year, was fulfilled at the fireside ;* but 
perhaps it was not so carefully and thoroughly done as to 
make any thing further in the way of reminiscense at the 
present time, a work of supererrogation. The text invites 
us to a specific oiRce of retrospection, viz: Calling to grate.- 
ful remembrance the goodness of God. As individuals, 
and as a people, a church and congregation, we have abund- 
ant occasion to utter the memory of God's great goodness. 
The Psalmist says that " they" — not any particular class, but 
the people, shall utter the memory of thy great goodness. 

Let us then bring to remembrance the goodness of God to 
us personally, and as a people, not confining our remiscences 
however, to the past year, though noticing more especially 
the scenes of the year to which we have just bidden adieu. 

* The delivery of the discourse on the first Sabbath was prevented by a violent snow 
Btorm which proved the commencement of eight weeks of memorably cold weather. 

I. The goodness of God to us as individuals. 

We have enjoyed anotPier year — life with its blessings, 
health, hope, happiness — life with its privileges; its opportuni- 
ties of mental and moral improvement; its opportunities of con- 
tributing to the happiness of others, of serving our generation 
according to the will of God — life with its escapes, its de- 
liverances from danger, its succors in temptation — life with 
its discipline, sometimes indeed sharp, but always salutary ; 
its lessons of toil and trial, its wholesome restraints, its profit- 
able corrections. To all before me life has been sweet, and 
they have enjoyed it. Childhood has enjoyed life. Free 
from care and full of health and spirits, the hours have sped 
merrily away. Youth has had much to enjoy, has enjoyed 
much, and might have enjoyed more if pleasure had never 
been spoiled by sin. Manhood, though often oppressed by 
cares and anxieties, has had much to enjoy, and if the hours 
have not always flowed smoothly, they have for the most 
part passed cheerfully along ; and old age though its earthly 
joys have been more of memory than of hope, has had a 
stocij of pleasant memories, and has renewed its youth in liv- 
ing over and over again the scenes of former years. 

I dispose of my first topic in this summary manner that 
more time may be left for my second, viz : Calling to grate- 
ful remetnbrajice the goodness of God to us as a people, a 
Church, and congregation. 

It is now nearly a third of a century that this Church and 
congregation have existed in their present organization, and 
it has occurred to me that it might be neither an uninterest- 
ing nor unprofitable employment of a half hour to take a re- 
trospect of some of the principal events in your ecclesiastical 
history. It will not be expected that I can gather around the 

subject the interest which attaches to the ancient and vene- 
rable — to reminiscences evoked from the dim and shadowy- 
past ; but while the facts are familiar to some before me, so 
fluctuating is the population of this village, that they will be 
as new to many as if they had transpired in years long gone 
by. I must anticipate several years the date of your organi- 
zation, in order to include the history of your present place 
of worship, from the laying of the corner stone, in Septem- 
ber, 1814. This house was erected, as some before me may 
not know, for the accommodation of an Episcopal Church, 
which had an existence in this village from 1814 to 1818. 
The first notice in the records of its brief history runs thus : 
" Preston, October 20, 1813. Whereas, it is proposed to en- 
gage and employ the Rev. Ammi Rogers to perform divine 
service, and to preach in Jewett City, in this town twenty- 
six Sundays, and to begin about the 1st of December next, 
now, therefore, we, the subscribers, promise to pay to the 
said Rev. Ammi Rogers, or bearer, the sum or sums which 
we hereunto subscribe, for each Sunday that said Rev. Ammi 
Rogers shall perform divine service and preach in this place, 
for the said term of twenty-six Sundays ; that is, we subscribe 
so much for each Sunday as we here affix to our names," 
thirty-five men subscribing from fifty to twelve and a half 

Going forward to February 8, 1814, we meet the following 
record : " We, the subscribers, sincerely desirous of promot- 
ing the public worship of Almighty God, and the temporal 
and spiritual good of mankind, do hereby unite and enrol 
ourselves as belonging to the Protestant Episcopal Church, 
in the United States, in that part of the town of Preston 
called Jewett City, in the County of New London, and State 
of Connecticut, and we hereby certify that we choose to be- 

long to that denomination of Christians, availing ourselves of 
all the rights and privileges secured by an act of the Legis- 
lature of the State of Connecticut, entitled an act securing 
equal rights and privileges to every denomination in this State, 
enacted in October, A. D., 1791." Signed by twenty-three 
names. The next record of special interest is as follows : 
" At a meeting of the Rector, Church Wardens and Vestry 
men of St. George^s Church, in Jevvett City, lawfully con- 
vened, and in their place of public worship, the 3d day of 
September, 1814, Voted that the Rector. Church Wardens, 
and Vestrymen of the Episcopal Church in Norwich, and the 
Wardens and Vestrymen of the Episcopal Church in New 
London, and their families be respectfully invited to attend 
at the laying of the corner stone of St. George's Church in 
Jewett City, in the town of Preston, on the 14th day of Sep- 
tember, inst., and that the Clerk of this Parish be directed to 
enclose to them a_ copy of this Note. Perry M. Herskell, 
S. Clerk." 

I find no record of the laying of the corner stone, but there 
are those present who can testify from their own recollec- 
tion, that it was laid as proposed, amid a large concourse 
of spectators, for the erection of an Episcopal Church, in 
such an old Puritan town as Preston* was a novel occur- 
rence. Passing on, we come to the following record : 
"March 23, 1818. Voted, that Messrs. Enoch Baker, Na- 
than Rose, and Peleg Fry, be a Committee to confer with the 
other parishes in the care of the Rev. Ammi Rogers, and to 
state his case, &c., and to apply to the next Convention for 
him in our behalf." The character of Mr. Rogers having 
become the subject of not a little scandal, his ministry soon 
ceased in this place. We have no desire to refresh your recol- 

* That part of Preston in which Jewett City is situated, was made a town, by the 
name of Griswold, after the late Gov. Roger Griswold, in 1815. 

lection of his subsequent history. It is an ungrateful task 
to trace the annals of blighted hope and ruined reputation. 
Suffice to say, that after leaving this place he led many years 
an unsettled life, and at length died in Milton, Saratoga Co., 
N. Y., aged 80 years. 

The next and last notice is a sudden and rather violent 
transition, reading thus : 

" At a meeting of St. George's Church so called, in Jew- 
ett City, legally warned and convened in Johnson's Hotel, 
in said City, on the 30th day of March, 1824, Voted, that 
Elder Amos Read, be Moderator of said meeting, and Daniel 
Wight, Clerk; John Johnson, S. C. Morgan, and Daniel Wight, 
Committee to take charge of said Church, and do necessary 
repairs ; Daniel Wight, Key-keeper and Treasurer. 

Adjourned without day. 

Attest, D. WIGHT, Clerk." 

You will observe an interregnum from 1818 to 1824. 
During this period the house accommodated various denomi- 
nations particularly the Baptist — Elder Amos Read often oc- 
cupying the pulpit. 

On the 18th of February, 1825, a meeting was held to 
take measures for organizing a Congregational Society in 
Jewett City, to be known and called " the 2d Congregation- 
al Society of Griswold." At an adjourned meeting held 
March 14th, the Society was fully organized, and the proper 
officers appointed. It consisted at its organization of forty- 
five members, a large proportion of whom are now numbered 
with the dead. On consulting the town records, I find under 
date April 22, 1828, a document which is interesting as 
showing the tenure by which you hold this house. I ex- 
tract from it as follows : " Whereas, the 2d Congregational 


Society in the town of Griswold, in New London Co., is des- 
titute of a house of public worship, and are at this time una- 
ble to defray the expense of erecting one, and whereas, the 
undersigned are the owners and legal proprietors of the ma- 
jority of the shares, or of the common and undivided rights 
in St. George's Church, so called, and in the land appertain- 
ing and belonging thereto, situated and being in said town of 
Griswold, in the village of Jewett City, and influenced by a 
desire to furnish said Society a house for public worship, on 
the conditions hereafter named, and to perpetuate in said So- 
ciety the regular administration of the Gospel in all its ordi- 
nances of the orthodox Congregational denomination — ortho- 
dox according to the doctrines and precepts inculcated in the 
Westminster Catechism — now to this end and for this specific 
object, we, the undersigned, do, by these presents, hereby re- 
lease and quit-claim to said Society all our undivided interest 
in and to said Church, and in and to all the land belonging 
thereto bounded Northwardly by land of Enoch Baker, East- 
wardly by the road leading to said Baker's house, and 
Westwardly by the turnpike, — said lot lies in the form of a 
triangle, making an acute angle where said roads meet, — to 
be had, held, used, and occupied, and improved by said So- 
ciety, so long, and on condition that said Society shall im- 
prove said house for a house of religious worship, according 
to the doctrines and precepts aforesaid, and for the denomina- 
tion of Christians aforesaid, and no longer ; and whenever 
said Society shall occupy or improve said house, or suffer 
the same to be occupied or improved contrary to the condi- 
tions or intendment of this grant, the grantors reserve to 
themselves the right and pfivilege of re-entering and taking 
possession of said Church, with all the improvements made 
thereon, and said property shall revert and revest in the grant- 
ors in the same manner and in the same proportions as it is 

owned by them ; and it is understood by the grantors and 
grantees that, should there hereafter arise any question as to 
the improvement of said house, the orthodoxy of the Socie- 
ty or of the officiating clergyman, the same shall be submit- 
ted to a board composed of the Rev. Clergy belonging to the 
Consociation of New London Co., whose decision shall be 
conclusive as to the subject matter laid before them." Sign- 
ed by sixteen grantors, of whom but five are now living, viz : 
vS. C. Morgan,. Daniel Wight, John W. Fanning, John C. Tib- 
bits and Charles Johnson. The house thus deeded to the 
Society was dedicated September 3d, 1828. 

Should the population of this village considerably increase, 
as it must whenever the valuable water privileges in the vi- 
cinity which have never hitherto fairly come into the market, 
shall be taken up, you will need a larger edifice ; meantime; 
this house with slight expense, could be remodeled inside, 
greatly to the improvement of its appearance, and the accom- 
modation of the worshippers. 

The Church was organized April 14, 1825, and consisted at 
its organization of twenty-three members. Their names are, 
Stephen Johnson, Lydia Johnson, Daniel Wight, Roxana 
Wight, Thomas H. Wilson, Lucy E. Wilson, Alfred A. 
Young, Lucy P. Young, Thomas Jackson, Esther Jackson, 
Mary Wilson, Lydia Johnson, Maria P. Morgan, Abby C. Wil- 
bur, Heppy Fanning, Elizabeth Barstow, Eunice Cutter, 
Olive Phillips, Sarah P. Phillips, Mary W. Fanning, Anson 
S. Cobb, John Francis, and Esther Francis. Of the original 
members twenty were by letter from the 1st Church in Gris- 

Mr. Seth Bliss was the first minister invited to take the 
oversight of this Church and people. After preaching a short 
time as a candidate, he received a unanimous call to settle, 


which he was pleased to accept, and was ordained June 15, 
1825. The ordination services were performed in the fol- 
lowing order : Introductory Prayer, by Dr. Osgood, of 
Springfield, Mass., Sermon by Prof. Fitch, of Yale College, 
from Colossians, i. 28 ; Consecrating Prayer by Dr. Nott, of 
Franklin ; Charge to the Pastor by Dr. Strong, of Norwich ; 
Right Hand of Fellowship by Mr. Hyde, of Preston ; Ad- 
dress to the People, and Concluding Prayer by Mr. Nelson, 
of Lisbon. 

Mr. Bliss' ministry was a prosperous one. He came with 
the dew of his youth yet upon him ; he threw his whole soul 
into his work, and God was pleased to make his ministry a 
blessing to many. Fifty-six were added to the Church un- 
der his pastorate — thirty-seven by profession, and nineteen 
by letter. Most of those added by profession were the fruits 
of a work of grace in the Spring of 1831. This people 
shared largely in the blessings of that year, so remarkable for 
revivals of religion. I have often heard Mr. Bliss speak of 
the anxiety he felt for the results of the protracted meeting 
held in May. There were certain things in the state of the 
Society, which seemed to make a protracted meeting a meas- 
ure of doubtful expediency, but " in weakness, and in fear, 
and in much trembling" they came to it, and as it progressed, 
the tokens of God's gracious presence were so manifest that 
all doubt as to the propriety of the step was removed ; the 
Spirit came down with great power, and strangers from neigh- 
boring towns were deeply affected on entering the assembly 
of God's people, and believers were daily added to the Lord, 
" of whom the greater part remain to this present, but some 
are fallen asleep." Twentyrfour were added to the Church 
in July, the first fruits of the work, four in September, and 
seven in November, makii^g an aggregate of thirty-five. 


About this time Mr. Bliss feeling that the salary was inade- 
quate to the support of his family, asked for a dismission, and 
the people reluctantly yielding to his request, his relation to 
his first and only pastoral charge was dissolved April 23, 1832. 
Soon after, he was elected to the office of Corresponding Sec- 
retary of the American Tract Society, Boston, where he still 
continues laboring with an energy that knows no remission, 
and sharing with the friends of the Tract cause, the pleasure of 
witnessing the blessing with which God has from the begin- 
ning crowned that department of Christian charity. May he 
yet live to pray for a people who will never cease to remem- 
ber him with warm affection as their first Pastor. 

After an interval of a few months, Rev. George Perkins, 
of Ashburnham, Mass., received and accepted an invitation 
to settle with this people. His installation took place Au- 
gust 8, 1832. Under his ministry, which continued but six 
years, fifteen were added to the Church, eleven by profession, 
and four by letter. Mr. Perkins, though plain and unimpos- 
ing in his manners, was a man of sound mind and sterling 
worth : whilst lacking some elements of a popular speaker, his 
life was a continual sermon. This people lost not a little 
when they lost the presence and power of his example. His 
domestic affairs seeming to demand more attention than he 
could give them consistently with his continuing in his pres- 
ent place, he obtained a dismission, September 4, 1838, and 
removed his family to the residence of his late father-in-law, 
in Norwich Town, where he remained till his death. For 
several years after his removal to Norwich, he supplied the 
congregation at Bozrahville, but his declining health render- 
ing this service onerous, he relinquished preaching altogeth- 
er, and waited in patience his " change." For that change 
he was prepared by the discipline of sorrow ; within the 


lapse of a few years he was called to part with a second wife, 
an only daughter, and the eldest of his two sons.* From 
the last sudden and stunning blow he never recovered, but 
body and mind both sank under the shock. He died Sep- 
tember 17, 1852, aged 69 years. " Precious in the sight of 
the Lord is the death of his saints." 

Immediately upon the dismission of Mr. Perkins, Mr. Wil- 
liam Wright was called to preach as a candidate, and was 
ordained November 8, 1838. Under his ministry eighteen 
were added to the Church, eight by profession, ten by letter. 
Mr. Wright was dismissed at his own request, April 28, 1842. 
Though his ministry was brief, God was pleased to crown 
its close with a precious work of grace, part of the fruits of 
which it was my privilege to gather into the Church. He is 
now settled in South Windsor, in this State. 

The speaker after laboring for several months as a stated sup- 
ply, was installed April 5, 1 843. Under my ministry, protract- 
ed, as a Pastor, and as a stated supply, already to nearly four- 
teen years, there have been added to the Church eighty-sev- 
en, thirty-six by profession, fifty-one by letter. We have en- 
joyed two or three seasons of more than special religious in- 
terest, the last, which occurred in the Winter and Spring of 
1854, some before me will not be likely soon to forget. The 
whole number added to the Church since its organization, is 
one hundred and seventy-six, ninety-two by profession, and 
eighty-four by letter. The present number of the Church is 
sixty-nine ; males twenty, females forty-nine. Added the 
last year, one by letter ; four removed — one by death, three 

* He had just entered Yale College when the failure of sight compelled him to aban- 
don an education. He took a whaling voyage mainly for the benefit of his eyes, and 
while engaged in capturing a whale, was instantly killed by a stroke from the whale's 


by dismission. Of the present members forty-five are resi- 
dent, twenty-four non-resident. 

The Church has had but four Deacons. Dea. Stephen 
Johnson sustained the office alone from the organization of 
the Church until the Summer of 1848, at which time 
Joel Hyde was chosen Deacon, and entered upon the duties 
of his office September 3, 1848. The office of Deacon hav- 
ing become vacant, by the death of both these venerable 
men, at a meeting of the Church holden July 21, 1854, 
Henry L. Johnson, and Nehemiah T. Adams, were cho- 
sen Deacons, and these brethren having signified their accept- 
ance of the appointment, were inducted into office by pra3^er 
and imposition of hands, September 3, 1854. 

Since the pastoral office was last vacated, September 6, 
1854, events deeply interesting to those concerned have trans- 
pired. Rev. Henry T. Cheever, has with great unanimity 
been called to the pastoral work, and though he has not yet 
accepted the call, the probability is that if the people con- 
clude to wait until he has completed an engagement with an- 
other people, he will then be ready to accept their call, and 
enter upon this new field of labor with the advantages of the 
experience he has already had in the sacred office.* In con- 
nection with the calling of a Pastor, a fund of $8,000 has 
been raised to place the support of the Gospel upon a perma- 
nent basis. The accomplishment of this object has cost 
some effort — I think I do not speak other than truly and so- 
berly — but I presume I speak the sentiment of all who have 

* Mr. C. has since accepted the call, and was installed May 29, 1856. The services 
of the occasion were as follows : Invocation and Reading of the Scriptures, by Rev. 
N T. Allen, of the Baptist Church, Jevvett City ; Introductory Prayer by Rev. George 
Soule.of Hampton; Sermon by Prof. Shepard, of Bangor, Me , from Rom. i 16 ; In- 
stalling Prayer by A. Bond, D. D., of Norwich ; Charge to the Pastor by Rev. J. P Gul- 
liver, of Norwich ; Right hand of Fellowship by Rev. H. P. Arms, of Norwich Town ; 
Address to the People by Rev. T L. Shipman, their late Pastor ; Concluding Prayer by 
Rev. B. F. Northrop, of the 1st Church, Griswold. 


borne a part in it, that they would not if they could, recall 
any portion of what they have given, be it more or be it less, 
to an object so dear to their hearts, and which promises such 
rich blessings to those who shall come after them. The day 
when the last dollar was subscribed is one of the days which 
will not be apt to slip from my memory. It was dark and 
stormy without, but it was very sunny within. A fund which 
shall make the preaching of the Gospel a gratuity is to be 
deprecated upon the principle that what costs us nothing, we 
value nothing ; but a fund which will lighten the burdens of 
a feeble Society, is greatly to be desired, and will make the 
memory of those who established it precious. I have been 
accustomed to state, at the opening of the year, the amount of 
our charitable collections for the past year. We have con- 
tributed to Home Missions, $30 ; to the A. B. F. C. M., $70; 
to the American Tract Society, $35 95 ; to the Marquesas 
Mission, $3 ; making an amount of $138 95. The aggre- 
gate of our collections for thirteen years, dating from 1843, 
is about $2,200. Of this, $1,100 to the A. B. F. 0. M. ; 
$429 to the American Home Missionary ,• $444 56 to the 
American Tract Society ; $200 to various other objects in- 
cluding the American Bible Society ; the American Seamen's 
Friend Society ; the American Protestant Society, (now merg- 
ed in the American and Foreign Christian Union ;) State Tem- 
perance Society ; for erecting Church edifices at the West ; 
$30 contributed by the Sabbath School at different times for 
furnishing Libraries to Sabbath Schools at the West. 

I know not how your minds are affected by these reminis- 
censes, but for my own part, my heart has been greatly in- 
terested in looking back over the history of this Church and 
congregation, and I find abundant reason to utter to-day the 
memory of God's great goodness. We could not expect to 
speak of large additions, whether by profession or by letter, 


to a Church located as this is, in a village so small, and where 
the greater part of the population belong and have all along 
belonged, to another religious denomination. We are not 
permitted to speak of princely donations to benevolent ob- 
jects, where there are no merchant princes, where we can 
point to no millionaires ; but when we take into view our po- 
sition, and our mission as connected with our position, while 
we have no occasion for boasting we have abundant reason 
to speak to-day of the goodness of God — to praise Him for 
the past, and to trust him for the future. I have no doubt 
that this Church is destined to live and lo grow stronger, and 
if they who now compose it are faithful, to share largely in 
the tokens of divine favor. It was my lot to labor with you 
in your weakness, and God knows how gladly I would have 
labored on with you, whether in your weakness or in your 
strength, if it had not been my deepest conviction that my 
health was not equal to the work. Perhaps there is no better 
place than this, when sorrow comes over the heart at the 
thought of the final sundering of ties which have been very 
strong and very tender, to speak of death's doings among you 
the past year ; and not the past year only, but in years that are 
gone, but which come back to-day with the memory of the 
loved and the lost. 

The number of deaths the past year has been twenty.* 
The first on the the scroll of mortality is a patriarch of nine- 
ty-seven years — the oldest inhabitanff of the town ; the sec- 
ond an infant of three days, thus bringing extreme age and 
very infancy side by side in death. Of the remaining 
eighteen, the first was a cherished female member."]: of this 

* The record includes all the deaths which have occurred in the village, and the 
deaths in such families out of the village as are connected with the two congregations 
in the village. 

t Mr. James Tyler 

I Mrs. Nathan John.=on. 


Church whose name I need not repeat, for it is in your hearts 
if not on your lips. The remaining seventeen include a va- 
riety of names, each of which, if spoken in the ears of this en- 
tire community would strike a tender chord in some heart. 
The proportionof the youngamong the dead of the last year has 
been unusually, if not unprecedently large. Of the twenty 
who have died, eleven — more than half — were under four 
years of age. Some of these little ones fell at the very 
touch of disease, and others struggled day after day, keeping 
hope even against hope alive in the bosoms of fond parents, 
till nature sank in the unequal conflict, leaving nothing to the 
bereaved parents but to say, though with streaming eyes : " It 
is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good." The ag- 
gregate number of deaths for the fourteen years during which 
I have kept a careful record is two hundred and twenty-six ; 
the largest number in one year is twenty-four ; the smallest 
eight ; the average sixteeen. Such a fact brings with it a 
very plain and very solemn lesson ; it teaches us that death is 
not only among the possible events to us of the present year, 
but a measurably probable one, not indeed so probable as to 
make the expectation of living this year irrational, yet so 
probable as to make preparation for dying this year one of the 
plainest dictates of prudence and wisdom. Whatever it be 
which we would by all means do before we die, let us do 
that now. If we would become Christians before we die 
let us become Christians now ; if as Christians we would live 
a higher life before we die, let us begin that life to-day. 

We have employed the season of meditation this morning 
in reviewing the religious history of this congregation, 
and I am sure there is nothing in which I could have so in- 
terested you, as in your religious history. Religious associa- 
tions are our strongest associations ; religious recollections 


are our most vivid recollections. It is a tribute which all pay, 
old and young, saints and sinners, spontaneously and invol- 
untarily, to religion. 

With gratitude, then, for the past, we commit the future 
to the All Good ; and may He who regardeth the cry of the 
humble, vouchsafe his presence to cheer our steps ; and after 
this life receive us to himself, that where He is there we 
may be also ; and all the praise we will render to His great 
name, both now and forever. Amen.